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Racial Bias in Airport Police Force Reported

June 28, 1986|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

A report by a former Los Angeles Superior Court judge has concluded that minority members of the Los Angeles International Airport Police Bureau have been discriminated against in terms of working conditions, salaries and job advancement.

After interviews last fall with 32 members of the independent airport police force, retired Judge Delbert E. Wong reported that "the preponderance of the evidence, in my opinion, establishes the fact that there are indeed racially discriminatory practices at the airport Police Bureau."

The 16-page report was delivered to the Board of Airport Commissioners last March 19. It was made public on May 8, according to an airport spokeswoman but was not publicized until Friday when the South Bay newspaper, The Daily Breeze, carried a story about it.

Asked to respond to the discrimination charges, Donald A. Miller, the airport's deputy general manager, said that "the judge's views were based on unsworn testimony given by individual police officers in private on a voluntary basis. To that extent (the testimony) is one-sided."

As a result, he said in a telephone interview, the judge's allegations "demand additional investigation."

Such an inquiry, he said, is being conducted by Muriel Morse, a retired personnel manager for the City of Los Angeles, who is scheduled to make a report on specific discrimination charges this fall to the airport commissioners, who oversee operations.

The Wong report came during a period of unhappiness among airport police, who patrol its grounds, buildings and parking areas. For the last 18 months, commissioners have been receiving letters from the public and officers complaining about misuse of authority and discrimination, The Times recently reported.

The airport's Police Bureau, which is not connected to the Los Angeles Police Department, has 238 officers, of whom 56% are black, 27% white, 12% Latino and 5% Asian.

Last December, the commission awarded a $1.7-million contract to a local consulting firm, Joseph Theodore & Associates, to overhaul the bureau. The firm's work is being directed by Joseph T. Rouzan, a veteran of the Los Angeles, Compton and Inglewood police departments.

Wong said in his report that he received testimony that black officers were disciplined when whites in the same circumstances were not.

The bureau's daily operations also favored white officers, according to Wong's report. He cited two white officers who were married and who "were permitted for years to work the same shift, share the same days off and even share the same assignments. The privilege was not extended to black officers who were husband and wife."

After Wong's report, the airport's management began overhauling personnel policies, Miller said. Last month, he said, a black man and a white woman were appointed to two of the five top captain positions on the force.

Additionally, Miller said, training already has begun in "human relations," another shortcoming noted by Wong. This included recent seminars for 10 to 15 officers "in a retreat-like atmosphere" in Laguna Beach to improve police attitudes toward each other and the public, he said.

Other recommendations being implemented, Miller said, include a search for a new Police Bureau chief to replace one who retired last April; posting of job opportunities for officers and adoption of a periodic employee evaluation system.

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